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Updates from August 2000

A Dublin pub opens in London, plus notes from my tasting room

Bertie Ahern and Michael Jackson
Prime Minister Ahern and Michael Jackson

The Republic of Ireland's Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, privately flew to London the other day to declare open a British branch of the Porterhouse. The Dublin original, a brewpub which now also has its own micro, is supplying beer to its London offspring (in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden).

Premier Bertie said the new hostelry was surely the best pub in London; and observed that it had the finest beer in town (were the brewers of Guinness listening?). One of the owners, Oliver Hughes, introduced me: "This is Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter and The Whisky Chaser," announced Hughes, a man who does not forget to plug the product. "The Beer Hunter will be the better part of that." observed the Prime Minister (were the distillers of Jameson listening?).

The whole Dublin Porterhouse range is available in London, but there is also a gesture to British tradition: a cask-conditioned ale called T.S.B. The first initial stands for Turner, the artist, who was born on the site. The "S" is for Sticklebract, the variety of hop that is featured (it comes from New Zealand, and has an aroma and flavour that in this beer reminds me of marijuana). The "B" is for Bitter. A dry, appetising. hop-varietal ale that has nothing to do with a well-known beer from London brewery Fuller's.

From my tasting room

Saaz Organic Lager, 4.2 per cent alcohol by volume. New from the Forth Brewery, in Alloa, Scotland. This hop-varietal brew has a fragrantly flowery, leafy (garden mint?) bouquet; a firm, smooth, light-to-medium, malt background, with some biscuity, juicy, sweetness; a late dryness, with a gentle but definite, clean, hop bitterness emerging. Restrained, but flavoursome and well balanced. Refeshing and appetising. The beer-maker at Forth is Duncan Kellock, formerly of the Alloa brewery Maclay's, which closed not long ago. He is a partner in the new brewery, along with the former Maclay's management and the principals of Heather Ale, whose bottled products are produced at Forth. (Their draughts emerge from their own micro and tasting room, at Strathaven

Carlsberg Abbey Ale, 7.3abv. A rare special from the Scandinavian giant. Dark walnut color. Spicy maltiness in the aroma. Hints of cocoa and toffee in the palate. Creamy, fruity (fresh apricots?). Touch of fruity acidity as the finish dries. light-bodied and restrained for the style, but nicely balanced. This surprising product was brewed from four malts (Pilsner, Munich, caramel and chocolate), and sugar, and hopped with Saaz. It was top-fermented, and bottled unfiltered. Only 3,000 bottles were produced for sale, but it is hoped that more such experiments will emerge every three months.

Duinen, Abbey Ale. The name Duinen refers to an abbey in the sand-dunes on the coast of Flanders. It was Cistercian abbey, founded in 1107 and destroyed around 1566, during the Reformation. A small chapel survives, dedicated to St Idesbald, an abbot of Duinen. In the U.S., the beers are sub-titled as Reserve St Idesbald, by which name they are known in Belgium. These are beers with which I am already familiar, but the U.S. importer recently sent me two versions to taste. They did not appear to have changed substantially. The Dubbel, at 8.0abv, has a dense, rocky, head; a chestnut color; a toffeeish body, with flavors reminiscent of prunes or dates; and a leafy, stalky, slightly minerally, finish, with a quick hit of alcohol. The Tripel pours with a huge, creamy, head. It has a full gold color; a creamy, fruity, peppery, aroma. The body is smooth, malty and honeyish, restrained in the middle, but developing a dry, juniper-like, finish, with some warming alcohol. These beers are brewed by Huyghe, of Melle, near Ghent.

Published: AUG 18, 2000
In: Beer Hunter Online

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